The Massachusetts Senate plans to vote Thursday on a wide-ranging police reform bill that would require officers to re-certify every three years. It also imposes new limits on the use of force, including a ban on chokeholds and restrictions on the use of tear gas. It also limits deadly force to incidents where de-escalation failed or was not possible.
"Today's bill represents the first step in rethinking what public safety should look like," Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz said. "It prioritizes de-escalation, prevention and care, and rejects -- anywhere that it exists -- a culture of aggressive force and impunity in law enforcement, and it begins to transfer power to the community."
Officers would need to be re-certified every three years, under the bill, and the committee would have to maintain a publicly searchable database of complaints against officers, WGBH reports.
The bill would also allow police officers to be held civilly liable for excessive use of force, require "transparency and civilian authorization for military equipment acquisition" by a police department, and require the collection of racial and other data when pedestrians or cars are stopped. It would also prohibit school districts from sharing students' personal information with police departments for gang databases.
The bill would limit law enforcement's use of tear gas, other chemical weapons, rubber pellets and dogs and require reports when such tactics are used.
It would limit the use of deadly force to instances where de-escalation tactics have failed or are not feasible and "such force is necessary to prevent imminent harm to a person and the amount of force used is proportional to the threat of imminent harm."
"You can't shoot somebody because they're running away," Brownsberger said. "That's a big change in the field. That's an important change."
Along with creating a permanent Commission on the Status of African Americans, the Senate is also seeking to establish a pair of new task forces that would study the use of facial recognition technology and propose regulations around the use of police body cameras.